I have been watching a fascinating documentary about the Hippies of the 1960’s.
It is fascinating and the same themes come up again and again. I am struck by the shallowness of many of the people involved at the time, devoid of culture and having known only the materialist conventionalism of the 1950’s in the USA.
One aspect did come up, the use of drugs. It was mostly pot and LSD, sometimes heroin or cocaine. All these drugs are illegal and often dangerous for physical and mental health. Overdoses of alkaloids can kill. I have never touched any of them and I strongly advise anyone else to refrain. I don’t think that will be a problem for most of my readers!
That being said, the video mentioned a personality study about a group of people who took LSD in the 1960’s and claimed personality changes. William H. McGlothin, Long-Lasting Effects of LSD in Certain Attitudes in Normals: An Experimental Proposal. I have not yet read this study completely, but I intend to. In the video, it was said that the study was provoked by concern about the use of LSD and claims of personality changes, leading to the outlawing of the psychedelic drug. When the subjects were off the drugs, they reverted to their normal selves and personalities. They suffered no permanent changes or damage to their mental health. LSD, according to Dr McGlothin, is safe if taken under proper medical supervision in the right doses. All attitudes to life reverted to normal, in all but one question.
Their system of values was changed from the conventions of family, corporate employment and material wealth to the desire for a contemplative style of life, broad-mindedness and creativity. The drug obviously lowered inhibitions to allow some persons to express innate feeling and talents which had been suppressed by ambient culture and conformity. Here are the four most common experiences of people who have been on LSD trips:
- Sudden insight or revelation with a sense of certainty.
- Belief in unity – denial of the existence of opposites; good and evil are one.
- A denial of the reality of time.
- Evil is illusory.
It seems that these points concur with accounts I have read about those who have had near-death experiences (when the brain was so low in activity that unconsciousness should have been total) and those who had mystical experiences.
Some of us come to a more spiritual and contemplative view of life without drugs or special experiences caused by illness or by some miracle. In most ways, I am not impressed on seeing the Hippies and Counter Culture people of the 1960’s. I had a brief exposure at the age of 12, but I never entirely related to many of the turpitudes and the cult of “dropping out”. Things came together for me through reading and evaluating my own experience with conformist cultures like school and the Church. The expression of those young people was indeed shallow and foolish, but many of the intuitions and aspirations were just. Perhaps, after that false spring of fifty years ago, a more realistic movement of minds and hearts may arise.
Back to the subject of LSD: I am not readily given to conspiracy theories, but it is interesting to note that LSD was made illegal perhaps because it made persons who would become unpredictable and rebellious against the materialist and authoritarian order. You stop being politically correct when you take that stuff! I remember warnings at the time (around 1971) that LSD would make people believe they could fly and jump off roofs. I don’t know if this is true, but it is certain that no such drug should be taken without medical supervision as a part of an organised research project. There is also DMT, the so-called near death experience drug which is extremely powerful and has changed lives of those taking part in medical research projects. Ketamine, which used to be used for anaesthesia (and is still used by veterinary surgeons for animals), is another interesting one which is apparently safe under medical supervision.
I have never had the experience of those drugs, but the human mind certainly escapes control and repression. Our spirit soars and very occasionally touches the universal consciousness which we Christians call God. I regain optimism!